Dance halls used to be the crown jewel of Texas towns. Now, their numbers are dwindling and the few left operating are fighting to keep their doors open.
Though, The Broken Spoke in Austin is still going strong. James White opened the hall in 1964 and is enjoying a resurgence of interest due to Austin’s rapid growth in recent years. White opts to keep the hall much like it was when it opened and credits its long-term success to that decision.
“It’s a true mom-and-pop operation,” White told CBS News. “I tell people that my wife’s the working half of the family and I’m in charge of BS and PR, and we ain’t going to change nothing.”
For White, it’s all about keeping the hall’s character alive. “I Band-Aid this place together ’cause it’s got heart and soul,” White said. “And no matter who it is, nobody has to tell them where they’re at. They know darn good and well they’re not at Carnegie Hall.”
During their heyday at the beginning of the 20th century, there were over 1,000 dance halls in the state. Now, 400 remain, and only the Luckenbach Dance Hall in Luckenbach and Gruene Hall in New Braunfels still operate daily. Deb Fleming, president of Texas Dance Hall Preservation, Inc, told CBS the halls represent an important piece of history that preserve the state’s unique culture.
“With the immigration of the Europeans that came into Texas,” Fleming said, “they built a church, a community center, which could be used as a dance hall. “All these different cultures that came into Texas and then melted together over the years, that’s the history of Texas.”
To learn more about the history and efforts to preserve Texas dance halls, visit the official Texas Dance Hall Preservation website.